May Our Gospel Life Confirm Our Gospel Word

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.  (1 Thessalonians 2:8, ESV)

One of the great failures of the church is that our “gospel” lives have not undergirded our gospel words. And yet, throughout Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, HOW the people of God lived before the world mattered. When God rescued Israel out of Egypt, he brought them to the center of the world in Canaan. There, they were to be a royal priesthood and holy nation-displaying to the surrounding nations what it was like to live under the rule of Yahweh (Exodus 19:4-6). As a holy nation who was consecrated to God, they were to be different than the world – different in their worship (only one God), different in their government (theocracy), different in their sexual ethic (monogamous, covenantal marriage), different in their daily lives (dress and food). The reason they were to be different is that as a royal priesthood, they had special access to God and served to represent God to the nations, showing them how good and glorious and kind and just He was. Sadly, Israel failed. Their lives did not reflect their God. They continually disobeyed until God removed them from the land and exiled them.

But God promised He would give His people a faithful Son – one who would faithfully represent Him on earth as a royal son and priest, one who would be holy and show the world what God is like. You see, Jesus is the true image of God – the beloved Son who faithfully represent God as king and priest. He showed the world what God is like and who God is. He showed the world God’s love and mercy in how he treated the outcasts of society: women, children, the sick and lame, Gentiles. And Jesus showed the world God’s justice as he went to the cross and received upon himself the full cup of God’s wrath as a payment for sin. And Jesus showed God’ eternal plan as he was raised from the dead and crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Now, God is uniting all things under Christ and placing all things under his authority (Ephesians 1:10, 20-22).

One of the things God is uniting under Christ is a fractured humanity – Jew and Gentile – into one new man (Ephesians 2:13-16). When we evangelize, we are participating in God’s eternal plan to unite a fractured humanity in Christ. As we preach the gospel word, we are calling all people everywhere to recognize that God has placed Jesus on His throne as King and Lord and to bow down to him in repentance and faith. In order to fulfill this mission, Jesus has established the church – the new covenant people of God. Unlike the old covenant people of God, we are not located in one central geographical location. Instead, we are spread throughout the world in local gatherings called churches. As such, each local church is an embassy of our heavenly king and kingdom. Under the new covenant in Christ, Christians are God’s royal sons and daughters, called to represent King Jesus on earth as faithful ambassadors. Consequently, we are to display the glory and wisdom of God in this eternal plan to exalt Christ as king by the way we live our lives together as a church (Ephesians 3:10). It is no wonder that Paul calls the Ephesians (and us) to live our lives in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called – walking in truth and love and light and wisdom (Ephesians 4-6).

How we live our lives matters. Jesus said we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” letting our “light shine before others, so that they may see you good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). Peter says much the same thing (1 Peter 2:11-12). As we live our lives on this earth as Christians, we are to show the world who our king is, what he is like, and what it’s like to live under his rule, showing the world self-sacrificial love, genuine forgiveness, long suffering patience with one another. By living life together as a church in love, we show the world how wise our God is (Ephesians 3:10).

But it’s not right to think as those who wrongly attribute to Francis of Assisi the saying: “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” That’s like saying, “breathe, and if necessary use air.” There is no evangelism without the gospel word. Paul reminds us in Romans 10 that “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the words of Christ” (10:17). The “hearing” is the preaching of the word of God. Paul is using a play on words to say that people receive the gospel by faith – saving faith comes from “hearing” this good news, and this “good news” comes through the “hearing” of Jesus’ words. Paul is pointing back to Isaiah 53:1 – “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” In doing so, Paul is making the connection between the preached word and saving faith. God delights in saving a people through the proclamation of the gospel. Peter confirms Paul’s point, saying, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, though the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

We must preach, declare, share the gospel word! There is no salvation apart from God working by His Spirit through his word. Just being a good neighbor is NOT evangelism. Just being kind to everyone is NOT the gospel. Just inviting someone to church is NOT the gospel. Just giving someone an evangelistic book or tract is NOT evangelism. Now, don’t get me wrong. All these things are good, and we should be doing them – all of them. But the point is that evangelism requires we share the gospel word. But that gospel word falls on deaf ears when our gospel lives don’t match our gospel message. So, let us share the gospel word with boldness in order to please God, and let our gospel lives confirm the truth of this gospel – that God, though Christ, and by His Spirit, has changed us. We are a new creation belonging to a heavenly kingdom. And as we do, may God delight in displaying His glory and wisdom through us, and may He grant us the grace to see much evangelistic fruit from our grace-filled, Spirit-fueled evangelistic efforts.

Love, 

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